ECA: FAAC faults Okonjo-Iweala, denies approving $2bn withdrawal

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The Federation Account Allocation Committee on
Tuesday faulted comments credited to a former
Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that
it approved the withdrawal of $2bn from the
Excess Crude Account.
The committee, in a statement issued on its behalf
by Forum of Finance Commissioners in Abuja,
stated that the law setting it up did not give it the
power to approve withdrawals from the ECA.
Okonjo-Iweala had while responding to allegations
made by state governors that she made
withdrawals from the ECA without authorisation,
said issues relating to expenditure were usually
discussed at FAAC meetings attended by finance
commissioners of the 36 states of the federation.
She had said through a statement issued by her
spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, “The allegation by
some governors that former Minister of Finance,
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, spent $2.1bn out of the
Excess Crude Account ‘without authorisation’ is
false, malicious and totally without foundation.
“It is curious that in their desperation to use the
esteemed National Economic Council for political
and personal vendetta, the persons behind these
allegations acted as if the constitutionally
recognised FAAC, a potent expression of Nigeria’s
fiscal federalism, does not exist.
“But Nigerians know that collective revenues,
allocations and expenditures of the three tiers of
government are the concern of the monthly FAAC
meetings.”
But reacting to the ex-minister’s comments, the
committee said in its statement that Okonjo-
Iweala’s expalnation “is far from the fact and is
misleading.”
It said, “It has come to our notice the statement
credited to the former Coordinating Minister of the
Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala, that the Federation Account
Allocation Committee approved the withdrawal
from Excess Crude (Foreign) Account the sum of
$2bn. This statement is far from the fact and is
misleading.
“We wish to state unequivocally that FAAC does
not have the authority to approve withdrawals from
the ECA and, therefore, could not have approved
the withdrawal from the Excess Crude (Foreign)
Account the sum of $2bn.
“According to the law setting up FAAC, which pre-
dates the ECA, it cannot approve withdrawal and
has not done so in the past.
“If anything, FAAC, as records of its meetings
indicate, had often queried the activities on the
ECA, and, therefore, did not decide any
withdrawal.”
The statement noted that while FAAC had in
December 2014 observed the withdrawal of $2bn
from the ECA, the then Minister of State for Finance
and Chairman of FAAC, Bashir Yuguda, had when
asked during the plenary of FAAC meetings of the
respective months explained that former President
Goodluck Jonathan gave approval for the
withdrawals to pay oil marketers’ subsidy claims.
Yuguda reportedly stated that the action would be
ratified by NEC.
FAAC stated in the statement, “It should be noted,
therefore, that FAAC did not and could not have
approved nor taken the decision to withdraw the
sum of $2bn from the ECA.
“We would want to excuse Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
on this misrepresentation because she was not in
attendance during FAAC plenary and may not have
been fully and adequately made abreast of every
FAAC activity.”
But Okonjo-Iweala, while reacting to the finance
commissioners’ statement on Tuesday, said the
approval for the withdrawal of the funds was given
by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
She said in a statement by Nwabuikwu, “Payments
made were used for petroleum subsidies for the
Nigerian people and were approved by Mr.
President. Therefore, there is no question of
mismanaging any resources here.
“For the avoidance of doubt, at no time did Dr.
Okonjo-Iweala say that FAAC approved such
expenditures. What she said was that all these
expenditures were discussed at FAAC meetings
attended by finance commissioners from the 36
states.
“It is, therefore, clear that there was no
misrepresentation by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
“The question before us is: why is there such an
excessive attempt to batter her name in an attempt
to damage her reputation? It is clear, as I said in
my previous statement, that the motive is
malicious and very political, and, therefore, will not
succeed.
“If monies were used to pay for subsidies for the
Nigerian people and duly approved, why is Okonjo-
Iweala’s name being battered in this way? This
persecution should stop.”

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